Heyley Gatewood: Gateway to Math Excellence

2015-09-18 13.59.02Sandy Creek High School has seen a lot of students go from good to truly great, but few have transitioned more seamlessly than Heyley Gatewood, a senior at Sandy Creek who has shown stellar achievement in academics throughout her high school career and beyond at competitions and the Governor’s Honors Program. Gatewood, who considers herself to be the strongest in math, is currently taking AP Calculus and has an 100.25 in the class.

“I like the challenge of it,” said Gatewood. “I heard from the very beginning that it was going to be a very challenging class to take, and I understood that as: ‘Heyley, you need to do the best you possibly can on the subject.’”

Her goal is to make a perfect score on a test by the end of the year, which no one has ever done before. Besides mathematics, Gatewood enjoys the whole experience of school and helping others.

“I love learning,” said Gatewood. “I love being able to learn in every single class…I also like when people ask me questions. That’s awesome because as soon as I get to help somebody and they say, ‘oh, I get it’ or ‘oh, I understand’…it’s the best feeling in the entire world.”

Gatewood doesn’t only focus on sharpening the math skills of students here and now. In the future, she hopes to follow her parents’ footsteps and pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Science and Mathematics at Georgetown University. Afterwards, she hopes to become a college math professor.

“I kept trying to find all these different careers that had math in it,” said Gatewood. “I love teaching, I love helping people, and… math is the one thing I could do for the rest of my life…you have the same job but it never gets boring.”

As for the schoolwork that can get boring at times, Gatewood attributes her brother and three step siblings as her motivation to push through every lesson, every day. Being a role model for her family is an extra benefit she can look to for strength.

“Whenever they see me studying, they want to start studying,” said Gatewood. “I want to just be the person they look up to.”

If there’s one thing Sandy Creek High School has taught her, it’s expect the unexpected.

“If teachers teach you one thing in class, don’t expect for just that thing to be tested on. Expect to be tested on that thing you learned in the 8th Grade on August 24th, just to pop up in one of the questions,” said Gatewood. “Never forget anything….It will pop up at some point.”

According to Gatewood, her secret to success lay in not just paying attention to the material, but to the teacher. For anyone else who wants to follow in her footsteps, Gatewood has one piece of advice: never give up. When she took Accelerated PreCalculus and AP Statistics at the same time, everyone told her it was an impossible task that would only cause her pain.

“Don’t ever say you can’t do something just because you think it’s hard,” said Gatewood. “I told myself, ‘This isn’t as bad as everyone thinks it is; it’s only as bad as you make it…and I got through them very nicely.”

(By the way, “very nicely” translated from genius to English is in the 99-100 range throughout the year.) Despite her natural aptitude, Gatewood feels that pure brains alone can never bring success and that by that measure, she’s no different from anyone else.

“Even though math does not come easy to everybody, it doesn’t come easy to me either,” said Gatewood. “I still work for my grades. I still go home and I study for three hours straight. I don’t just come to school and know exactly what to do…I’m not the perfect student.”

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